In / Out of the Box

Video of 27 Nov 2008 performance, final version of Part 1, Part 0 – something like a poem

expanded 3 February 2009

Parts 1 and 2 as performed at Showroom on 27 November 2009 (unedited), videotaped by thispace. [For more about thispace, see websites for thispace  www.thispace.org.uk and ::the studio:: www.the-studio.jimdo.com].

Post-performance smashing of the box, videotaped by thispace at Showroom on 27 November 2009.

Part 1, final version [created by Mary Jacob with music by Dr. T].

An audio file has been created that encapsulates part 1 in voice only.  It has been many years since I wrote poetry, but this seems to me something like a poem. Have a listen to Part 0.

Penultimate version, 4 November 2008

Showroom date 27 November!

So much is involved in a project like this! A two-minute video, but throughout there were a number of technical hurdles to overcome, music changes, etc.  Interesting part has been finding and working with other people who are interested. Here is the current status:

Part 1 – penultimate version is uploaded onto Google video tonight.  Thanks to Dr. T for music. Becky Bridge for supplemental photography, Steve Craine for production assistance, and various friends for moral support.  What still needs to be done is adding in a credit screen, and possibly re-jigging the timing on some of the photos in the first half to sync with the music. I’m not actually sure it is necessary, and I love the way the second half works, so I might just leave it.

Part 2 – probably musicians lined up, and a videographer interested in recording the live performance. If that comes together then I’ll replace the seaside video with a video of the live performance.  All props are assembled with the possible exception of little boxes if I do the give-aways.  I’ve changed my original vision of what is in the boxes, but now I think I shouldn’t reveal it, should I?

I’ll embed the final version in a couple of days.

Sorry, INCA is now out.  Soundtrack being re-envisioned.

Please note that the video for Part 2 is only a record of what the actions are, for the purpose of scoring music for a live performance.It is not intended as a final product.

Part 1

Part 2

Rough cut of Parts 1 and 2. The piece turned out shorter than I’d thought. I’m pretty happy with it.  There is some compression with Google video, so if I can show this in a venue I’ll use the higher-res version.

Thoughts on streamlining for the venue…no installation on the tables, some bits at the end of Part 2 were extraneous so those have been cut.  The briefcase is unnecessary.  The two parts could be separated on the night, show the under-2-minute Part 1 clip with recorded audio – quick and easy with just the screen.  Then come back for Part 2 with the box (quite small, as you can see) and two musicians on stage, one musician at the back of the room. Part 2 is live action and live music with just PowerPoint slides showing on the back wall for the titles (no screen is needed).  No fancy walk-off or anything, just step forward with the LED poi for a minute, then invite the audience to open their little boxes.  Totally cool and streamlined!  Moreover, it allows space for the band to jam or do something else musically afterward if this is the last act of the evening and both Showroom and INCA are so inclined.  I really think this can work in the current space.

I enjoyed exploring the metaphors of the stones, the feathers, the colour blue. The box as an artificial barrier, disjunction between what is in the box and its environment. Glass returning to origin as sand. The pickax features more strongly than I’d originally envisioned – I like the role it plays. Hopefully the symbolism isn’t too heavy-handed. I made use of found arrangements, as the stones on the beach.

See the storyboard for the whole piece. This explains how the piece would be performed for a live audience with audience interaction, and has more detail on each component of the sequence, including some new items. Please note that the storyboard supercedes the details further down on this page.

Process notes 27 September – Today we shot footage on the beach of Part 2 – Out of the Box. We followed the storyboard exactly except that, as it was daylight I couldn’t use LED poi but used the greem tail poi instead. Many thanks to Richard Shipman for graciously offering to videotape it and give me a digital file that I can use to put together a rough cut. Thanks to Steph and Nick for carrying stones.  I should also note that some of the still photography is thanks to Steve Craine and Kieron, production assistants extrodinaire.

There was an audience at the beach today, and applause – gratifying!  I’d rehearsed the steps of divestiture previously but not with the actual ‘Franken-box’. Somehow doing the whole of Part 2 properly did feel like leaving behind some of the actual weight that I had carried around with me for that time.

I have been considering the impact of performing just one of the two parts, thinking over ways that the project could be streamlined, trimmed down, or just sampled.  No matter which way I turn it round in my head, I still come up with a holistic view of the piece.  Part 2 doesn’t make sense without Part 1 and vice versa.  Even the music won’t make sense, as you can’t have the climax without the build-up.  The video of Part 2 will be used by INCA for composing the music, and also be put on line as an artifact. I considered using the video for the performance venue as well, but again after considering it from many angles, I ended up feeling that getting out of the box live in the venue for Part 2 is essential. I think that the Sun Ra method INCA has used in the past of having the musicians scattered around the venue rather than all on stage could help here.  Also we may be able to separate the two parts.  Based on the filming, I think we’ll come in well under ten minutes in total, which should also help on the staging side.

20 September Let me clarify, the technical question is getting DVD-quality output using my current home setup, not the actual editing.  I have a couple of possible solutions to that.  Meanwhile, I’ve decided to use all stills for part 1 anyway.  Tonight had a discussion with INCA and they are interested in doing the music.  I’m thrilled.  Have arranged to retake stills tomorrow to replace some of the video footage that I shot with my handycam.  Next step is to make at least a rough cut of part 1and shoot a rehearsal of part 2 on video so that it can be included to give INCA cues to work from when putting together music for both parts.  Feels like moving forward.

14 September 2008. Still frustrated with trying to sort out the media editing side of things.  However, looking for other solutions, even considering a lower-tech format with stills only.  Not sure about that yet.  Progress is being made on other fronts, however. Materials gathered include large boxes for use in the performance component (thanks to Jim Higson, who donated old bicycle boxes, which made a confusing sight to the cyclists coming up the path seeing me walk down carrying empty bicycle boxes – if I’d had my camera I would have documented that). I also have lovely origami paper to make the tiny birds. This week I have also done some more photography, but found that it was not possible to smash the champagne glasses down to sand.  Instead, they had a progressive ceremonial burial and symbolic return to origin.

I need someone to take a picture of me in the box, and I would like to stage some of the scenes formerly videotaped for still shots.  Then the still photography will be done and  I can start to assemble those bits.  If I can get a collaborator to do a bit more videotaping then I will have all the bits needed for the silent version of part 1.

I’m considering mounting some of the photos here, haven’t decided yet. That might be a nice intermediate stage. I’ve also sketched out the titles (in silent movie style), but I’m not sure of the best way to implement them. Could be part of the video, which runs behind me during the live performance and also provides the soundtrack. Drawback would be timing as I’d have to sync precisely with the title changes. Could be printed on large sheets of paper, which I then hold or have an assistant hold. Drawback would be printing so much black as the background, would need to reverse polarity, thereby losing some of the effect. Could be slides in a PowerPoint presentation, which would be very easy to do (in fact, I’ve already created this version). It would require an assistant to change the slides at the appropriate time. Drawback would be how to play the music?

If the music does get sorted, then it would be really nice to have it played live through both parts anyway. Then if someone videotapes part 2 as it is performed (maybe including audience interaction), I can put it together with the video of part 1, thus producing a single continuous clip of about ten minutes. And if we capture a good recording of the music performed live, it can be used as the soundtrack for the whole thing.  This would be the optimal implementation, dependent on collaborators though.

NEW IDEA – split the piece into a video and a performance but linked

revised 24 August 2008

The newest conception of this piece is that it should be split into two separate but related pieces. If the performance piece is done for a live audience, it must be shown in conjunction with the video piece for context.

Process notes24 August 2008.  After a bit of technical frustration, I think I’m set up to do at least something with the editing.  Today I have recorded some video clips and taken some still photographs to use in the first half of the piece.  I may also have background music lined up, providing that the video can actually come to completion.

In reflecting on the emotional force behind this particular piece, I think that the first half absolutely cannot be separated from the second half.  It would be too brutal to stand on its own.  So I intend to make a video of the performance part and attach it anyway.  If I am successful in obtaining a performance venue, I can play the first section as a video and do the second section live.  But I don’t want people to watch In the Box without being able to get Out of the Box – catharsis is crucial.

Poi note – the particular move that will be performed is called the Butterfly because the poi move in the shape of a butterfly’s wings. It need not be identified explicitly in order to evoke overtones.

Part 1 In the box – video montage

This is now conceived of as just a montage of video clips and stills. I’m currently wondering if it might be interesting to get an electronic soundtrack to this.  Only a few of the pieces require live sound so a music background might be quite nice. The video clips and photo stills are similar to the previous version of this piece, with some additions and changes, new items at top:

  • a bird in a box, you can hear it but not see it
  • insects in a box, you can hear them but not see them
  • camera at foot level on prom, a man’s feet walk into view, a box is put on prom, feet walk off into distance
  • still photo on the beach, a beach towel with box in foreground, man sitting with back to the box, no face showing
  • use different boxes, some of which have personal significance, others are just shoeboxes, etc.
  • still photo of box on prom, with a shadow over it
  • video pan starting at eye-level on bedroom wall, pan down to show the pickax handle, pan to the head of the pickaxe, pan along floor to the men’s jeans stretched out on the floor, a cell phone in the pocket of the jeans rings
  • box being shaken before being put somewhere as in examples below – you can hear sounds of what is inside but not see what the items are. Various versions (I may choose only the most significant items from this list, although all would make interesting soundscapes):
    • broken porcelain or glass
    • dust
    • crumpled tissue paper
    • cards
    • keys
    • money
    • sand
    • stones
    • a box in a box in a box
  • frogs in a box, you can hear them but not see them
  • something wrapped in paper being put into a box, the box closed and shoved under the bed
  • ditto but pickax smashes whatever is inside the paper first, sound of porcelain smashing
  • box shoved into a cupboard
  • box being lifted from the floor in closeup and put into a high cupboard
  • box put into cupboard, repeated slamming of door
  • box behind shoved repeatedly behind things, under sofa etc
  • box on floor, camera at floor angle, feet walking past, kick box
  • repeated wrapping of something in tissue paper, rustle of the paper, but the thing itself is not seen

Part 2 Out of the box – live performance escape act

The new version is slightly enhanced from the previous one. If music has been acquired for the video montage, then perhaps the same performer can provide a live soundtrack for the performance (I have something in mind but it hasn’t been arranged yet so don’t want to reveal it here).

There is a box made of cardboard exactly the right size for the person to fit inside standing up, wearing all the clothes and standing on top of three large stones. There should be almost no room for movement. A set of A4-size cards is located on top of the box. Other props are stashed behind the box, out of sight.

The performer takes the top card and displays it to the audience. It looks like a scene card from a silent film, and says June 2007. She takes off one layer of clothing – a black business jacket, formal striped shirt, and black trousers, revealing a similar outfit underneath, but one size smaller – and flings it out of the box. This should be done as much as possible from within the confines of the box, stiffly as it will be a tight space. Put one large stone outside the box.

Repeat as necessary through the sizes of clothing and stones, using dates July 2007, November 2007 and February 2008 after each stone is placed outside the box. The result will be more space to move inside the box as each layer is shed.

The last layer of clothing is different – loose, flowing trousers with batik designs and an informal top. The person steps outside the box, moving freely, and takes out colourful poi from her pockets and begins spinning them, moving her body to and fro. Then she puts on a business-like linen jacket, puts the poi into a briefcase, and strides off stage in a hybrid outfit.

Optional enhancement: If this piece really is performed for a live audience, there may be some boxes as in the installation version below to pass around during the performance. The audience can shake but not open them. Perhaps these are available for people to look at before the start of the performance.

Old new idea revised 20 July 2008

This has expanded from a single, simple piece to a combination of installation and performance art/video. It may need to split into two pieces. The question I’m grappling with this week is a tension between making my underlying meaning clear and avoiding spelling things out too explicitly for the viewer.

Installation – in the box

A stack of boxes, some of which are closed, some open. There may be words written on the boxes encouraging the viewers to pick them up and shake, or open and reach in. Some boxes contain video monitors on which a clip is looping. Examples of boxes:

  • sealed shoebox with broken pottery shards, encourage audience to shake
  • smashed railway cup in its original box inside another box, open at top for viewers to see
  • box with video monitor running clips as below
  • a box in a box in a box in a box, invitation for audience to open, inside smallest box is nothing but tissue paper to dull the sound but the last lid cannot be removed.
  • a tower of boxes with broken things hidden deep inside them, pressed into place nestled in tissue paper (broken things – cup, picture frame with photo covered over by thin tissue paper inside the frant so that the photo is obscured, crumpled anniversary card – maybe the card is overkill. Need to think more about the things). The audience is invited to explore and find what is hidden.

Video clips to be put into one or more montages (not in order):

  • box opening, winged insects (moths?) fly out
  • box opening, dust pours out
  • frogs in a box, you can hear them but not see them
  • something wrapped in paper being put into a box, the box closed and shoved under the bed
  • ditto but pickaxe smashes whatever is inside the paper first, sound of porcelain smashing
  • box shoved into a cupboard
  • box being lifted from the floor in closeup and put into a high cupboard
  • box put into cupboard, repeated slamming of door
  • box behind shoved repeatedly behind things, under sofa etc
  • box on floor, camera at floor angle, feet walking past, kick box
  • box on prom or other locations outdoors, camera a floor angle, feet walking past
  • repeated wrapping of something in tissue paper, rustle of the paper, but the thing itself is not seen
  • something in a box that looks like a coffin?
  • something in a box that looks like a cage?
  • still of pickax leaning against the wall next to the bed (include the mobile phone next to the pickax, or is that too explicit?)

Escape act – out of the box

The new version is similar to the original one with some enhancements. Based on live performance, there must be a wooden box that is exactly the right size for the person to fit inside standing up, wearing all the clothes and standing on top of three large stones.There should be almost no room for movement.

One layer of clothing comes off and is flung outside of the box. This should be done as much as possible from within the confines of the box, stiffly as it will be a tight space. Possibly give a date e.g. May 2007? Put one large stone outside the box.

Repeat as necessary through the sizes of clothing. At each transition point, put another stone outside the box. The result will be more space to move within the box as each layer is shed.

I still like the original ending, stepping out of the box wearing the loose more colourful clothing (maybe leave the box in place), spin colourful tailed poi, put poi into a plain black briefcase, and put on a suit jacket over the tunic trousers and walk away in a hybrid outfit.

No soundtrack, that is for a separate piece and isn’t needed here.

Question – the piece includes the idea of personal weight loss, that the clothing of different sizes was worn by the same person over the course of a year. How explicit does this need to be in the performance?

ORIGINAL IDEA

created 15 July 2008

This is a video piece or performance in which a person carries out a layered escape. There is a box almost the exact size of the person, who is standing inside it. The camera is trained on the box so that the person’s entire body except the head is showing. The person stands stiffly, then takes off the top layer of clothing – a black business jacket, formal striped shirt, and black trousers, revealing a similar outfit underneath, but one size smaller. The person flings the articles of clothing outside of the box. Repeat the process as many times as possible, revealing a person 4 sizes smaller than originally anticipated.

The last layer is different – loose, flowing trousers with batik designs and an informal top. The sides of the box fall away and/or the person steps outside. The person now moves freely, takes out colourful poi from her pockets and begins spinning them, moving her body to and fro. Then she puts on a business-like linen jacket, puts the poi into a briefcase, and strides off to the side.

A cat follows.

Note: I remember climbing out of my crib at about the age of 2 when I was supposed to be sleeping. I went to the dresser and put on all of my pajamas at once, one set on top of the other. I have no idea why I did this, but it is my earliest memory.

Optional enhancements

Two cats are in the room. Include their responses to the process when filming.

Soundtrack: ‘Ce n’est pas la vie. I need art I need art I need art’. Repeat the second phrase throughout, possibly manipulate digitally until release from the box. End with sounds of breathing, air movements.

Soundtrack alternate phrasing: ‘I need art’ or ‘I need out’ or ‘I need air’. Segue from one phrase to the other.

Enhancements suggested by Sally Ridgway: Create with person confined in various locations: cupboard, top shelf, etc. or without a box at all but with movement confined to a space. Throw something onto the person, such as flour, during the process.  Move the camera to zoom in and out, focussing on various body parts in the escape process.

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